A few weeks ago, Democratic strategist Robert Creamer was repeating the widely-circulated slanders about the Tea Party: “Is there any wonder that they spit at members of Congress as they went to vote, or that they hurl racial insults that are dredged up from the worst parts of America’s past,” he wrote in his column at the Huffington Post.
Today, Creamer is full of praise for the Tea Party movement–with nary an accusation of racism or violence in sight. “Tea Party activists don’t much trust big institutions of any sort–big government or big banks. They think of themselves as victims of the bureaucrats in Washington as well as the big banks in New York,” he writes.
What seems to have changed Creamer’s mind is the realization that more and more Americans sympathize with the Tea Party’s simple goals–which, in my understanding at least, are to protect and to expand freedom and opportunity for all Americans by restoring our constitutional values and limiting the size and reach of government.
Creamer seems to believe that the Tea Party can be turned against “traditional Republican defenders of Wall Street.” Some of Wall Street’s most devoted patrons are Democrats, but never mind. Creamer seems to envision a sort of proletarian unity, in which ordinary people can be whipped up in anger against their perceived oppressors.
I think Creamer has the Tea Party wrong, in that its members are not hostile to the free market ideals that built America.
Many resent the role that banks played in the financial crisis, but my sense is that they resent the role of government even more–particularly the bailouts and the role played by government-linked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
I also think that the direction in which Creamer hopes to push the Tea Party–attacking banks and shadowy capitalist forces–is unwise and unwelcome. Creamer is fond of these themes, despite the fact that they have historically led to destructive forms of nationalism, socialism, and antisemitism particularly during tough economic times.
It is almost as if Creamer wishes the Tea Party to become the extreme movement he once claimed it to be. His broader aim may be to marginalize it, and capitalize on its many faults and fractures. His more immediate goal is to take votes away from GOP candidates, whether through third-party efforts or simply depressing Republican turnout.
Regardless, Creamer’s new approach to the Tea Party reveals that its critics are fully prepared to acknowledge its legitimacy, as long as they can turn the movement against Republicans. The allegations of racism, homophopia, etc. are largely a sham, aimed to blunt the Tea Party’s message when it conflicts with partisan Democratic priorities.
Above all, the new seriousness with which the left and the media are treating the Tea Party is a sign of its effectiveness. Not everyone with agree with everything the Tea Party stands for, least of all the Tea Party itself. But the basic message–more freedom, less corruption–is well within the mainstream, and one that most Americans share.